Jacquie Joseph has been looking for the MSU softball team to step up and finish the season stronger than it started, and in Wednesday’s doubleheader against Purdue, the head coach said the Spartans stepped up.
Despite Purdue shutting out the Spartans, 5-0, in the first game Wednesday at Secchia Stadium, MSU fired back, winning the second game, 3-2.
With the Spartans have been struggling all season to maintain consistent pitching, they were forced to rotate sophomore pitcher Shelby Wise and junior pitcher Rebecca Rogers in for junior pitcher Lauren Kramer, who took the loss and moves to 8-5 on the season.
As MSU changed things up on the mound, the Boilermakers’ pitcher, Suzie Rzegocki, pitched all seven innings, finishing with nine strikeouts.
“She really is that good, and she’s pitched virtually every Big Ten inning except maybe five,” Joseph said. “When she’s fresh, she’s got a good mix of pitches, and her changeup is devastating.”
Purdue got on the board in the third inning of game one with outfielder Lindsey Rains’ two-run single after third baseman Tori Chiodo and outfielder Andie Varsho both reached base earlier.
In the fifth inning, the Boilermakers extended their lead to 4-0 with RBIs from Rzegocki and designated player Danielle Fletcher. As MSU was unable to respond throughout the game, Purdue sealed its victory with a solo home run from Chiodo in the top of the sixth.
In the first game, the Spartans struggled to make contact. Senior shortstop Lindsey Hansen was 0-for-4 at the plate, and junior outfielder Lori Padilla, junior third baseman Ali Grant and junior catcher Brett Williams all were 1-for-3.
“A couple of times we had an opportunity to score, and instead of going up there relaxed, a lot of us wanted to take the big swing,” Padilla said.
While MSU found itself in a similar situation, being down 2-0 in the top of the first, the team responded to make it 2-1. With Hansen on second and Padilla on third, Rzegocki stepped away from the mound, and Padilla stole home.
Padilla said she had been noticing Rzegocki stepping out of the circle and was ready to take a risk.
“In every game, there’s a defining moment, and that was definitely the defining moment because she got us on the board,” Joseph said. “She caught them off guard; she took a chance.
“Players need to step up at critical times, and she did, and I thought it was a catalyst for our whole team.”
The Spartans played like a different team in the second game, and they took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the second.
Sophomore catcher Mary Kate DiVirgilio’s single sent Williams home from third to tie the score. Senior outfielder Karen Fox followed up with a single to center field, allowing sophomore outfielder Kylene Hopkins to score and give MSU the lead.
With the rest of the game scoreless, freshman pitcher Cassee Layne took the win from the Boilermakers, evening out at 15-15 for the season.
“I thought Cassee pitched a great game; she hit her spots well,” Williams said. “She had a little bit of a shaky first inning, but she recovered really well and really adjusted to the umpire’s strike zone.”
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